Nobody called it a “Truce” but in effect that was what was under discussion. The cease-fire was holding, much to everyone’s surprise on both sides, so when the messenger from the Monroe Republic showed up at the rebel camp waving a white flag, no one took a precautionary shot at him.
The camp itself was located at a place that could charitably be described as the wilderness, although Rachel called it “The Armpit of Maine,” and Miles, never one to mince words, referred to the location simply as “bumblefuck” when they had originally settled on it. Located roughly fifty miles north of what used to be Skowhegan, the rebels drew the Militia further and further into the uncharted territory, until finally casualties on both sides had mounted to the point that the truce (or the elephant in the room) finally had to be considered.
The messenger was told to wait and asked what he wanted with Miles Matheson, with whom he had requested an audience.
“I have a letter from President Monroe.”
This introduction managed to ascertain that the messenger was detained no longer and led directly into a tent designated as Miles’ quarters.
Miles glanced at the messenger and pointed to a chair in the corner of the makeshift dwelling, dismissing the rebel guard with a decisive movement of his head. The messenger made himself look completely at ease, folding one of his legs over the other and casting an almost studious look around the tent.
“This is nicer than the last time we met, Miles,” he started.
“You’ve always had lousy aim, Jeremy.”
Jeremy shrugged. “That’s just not true, you know.”
Miles looked at the man who used to be his number three in command (and at times much more), and the unreadable look on Jeremy’s face disappointed him more than he cared to admit. He was going to ask whether Jeremy had been implying that he had missed on purpose, but what came out of his mouth instead was, “You have a letter from Monroe?”
Jeremy’s look spoke volumes and Miles could practically hear him jeering and taunting him, “Oh so that’s how it’s going to be now? Monroe, is it?” Instead, Jeremy simply reached into his pocket and produced a small piece of paper folded into a perfect square, the same way Bass has been folding his letters since junior high. Miles’ heart ached just looking at that paper.
He quickly scanned the contents of the letter and looked back at Jeremy, who sat in the same spot, both his arms and legs crossed, his leg, in fact, carelessly (or was it nervously?) bouncing up and down, distracting Miles from his train of thought.
“He says he wants to parlay regarding the peace terms but he will not speak to anyone but me. And he wants me to come to the Militia camp for the meeting as a sign of good faith.” Miles finally mumbled, as much to himself as to Jeremy. “Did you know this?”
“I told him he was crazy if he thought you would willing meet with him alone.”
“Is this a trick, Jeremy? Can I trust him not to kill me? Can I trust you not to shoot me in the face as soon as I leave this camp?”
Jeremy emitted a rather exasperated sigh and rose from the chair. He shook his head and shrugged with the weariness of a man who had been carrying the weight of the world upon his shoulders.
“Miles, Miles, Miles... You know Monroe... Bass... would sooner kiss you than kill you. As for myself, well...” Jeremy shrugged again. “To be perfectly honest, I’m tired as fuck of fighting, Miles. I’m getting too old for this shit. You, my friend, are getting too old for this shit. Isn’t it time you came home?”
“Is this what this is about, Jeremy? My coming home?”
“What the fuck do I know. I’m just the guy who’s been sucking his cock in your stead for the past six years. Just... meet with him, Miles.” He raised both his hands in the manner of surrender. “I promise. No face shootings.”
He had left Rachel in charge, and Miles knew it was the right decision, even if she did look at him as if he was the biggest lost cause in the known world as he told her that he was going to go meet Monroe in person to discuss the terms of the Truce.
“If I don’t come back by the end of day tomorrow, burn them out of the forest,” were his parting words.
The Militia camp was, just as he suspected, located on the outskirts of an abandoned farm. Far be it for Bass to sleep on the cold ground when there was an actual house he could inhabit, with likely some furniture which was still intact. He had been blindfolded by Jeremy but Miles recognized a barn and a stable when he smelled it. Eventually, he was led up a flight of stairs, and after a few more steps, Jeremy put an arm on his shoulder and his lips barely touched Miles’ earlobe as he whispered, “Be a good boy and wait here, Miles.”
When he next heard footsteps, he didn’t need his eyes to know that it was Bass. He turned towards the steps, his blindfold still on, and for a moment forgot to breathe.
“You may take that off now,” the voice was quiet but steady. Hell, a lot steadier than his own voice was probably going to be, Miles thought, as he brought his hand up and removed the blindfold from his eyes.
“Bass.” Miles’ voice came out, just as he suspected, hollow and far-away sounding to himself. He cleared his throat. “You were smart to send Jeremy to fetch me. I don’t know that I would have come if anyone else brought me your letter.”
“Liar.” Monroe stood in front of him, his hands folded behind his back, a look of cool composure on his face. His brilliant blue eyes fixed on Miles’ face, studying him quietly. “It is unbecoming, Miles, for you, who have always told me the truth. You spared me nothing of the truth last time we met.”
It had been a year, of fighting and strife bloodier than the previous fifteen years had accustomed them too, and still Miles remembered every word he had said then. “You are not my family. I have a family.” Miles swallowed at the recollection. “You... are nothing to me.”
“You have to make peace, Bass. You’re out of options.” The words were coming out of him faster than he was thinking them, it seemed. “It’s not safe for you here. Neville is plotting against you.” He paused and watched Bass, who had simply cocked his head to the side as if he was a big labrador waiting for a treat. “He came to us to make a deal of his own. An alliance if we back him, with your head on a stake to seal the deal.”
Bass turned away and walked towards the window, looking out into the distance for a long time, as if he was communing with the horizon for his next move.
“Do you hear me, Bass? Your own people are planning to kill you. You can’t win this war.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Monroe finally spoke, turning his head away from the window. Miles didn’t reply. “Wouldn’t it have been easier to just make the deal with Neville? A new Republic, with you back in the driver’s seat where you belong, as Neville’s new ally. With your united power and the pendants both sides have, the world would be your oyster.”
“It can still be.” Miles stopped and added. “But without Neville. With you.”
“No, Miles. You said it yourself - I’m done for. The men have turned from me, except Jeremy... And...” He trailed off and walked over to the other side of the room, away from the light. “The truth is, I don’t want any of it anymore. I haven’t wanted it for a very long time.”
“Are you telling me you’re giving up?”
“Did you not come here to discuss peace?”
“I did, but...”
“What I want to discuss are the conditions of my surrender. To you.”
“Yes, Miles. Don’t you think I far prefer to die by your hand than by Neville's?” Bass smiled, a haunted smile, which cut Miles to the core.
“You said,” Miles swallowed another lump in his throat, “You said that I had always been honest with you.”
“Brutally honest,” Bass smiled again and Miles rubbed his eyes with the pads of his thumbs. This was reason enough not to have agreed to see him face to face. He lost all his reason like this, and without reason he was disarmed even more surely than when he had handed his swords over to Jeremy upon approaching the farm.
“I haven’t been,” he finally spat out at Bass. “Not about everything. I said something... something that wasn’t true. Something that is the farthest thing from the truth.”
“Don’t...” Bass brought his hand up in such a way that it seemed he was trying to force whatever thoughts Miles was having back into the recesses of his soul.
“It’s too late now. Whatever you are going to say...”
“I have to tell you...”
“Don’t, Miles, please. I don’t need your pity.”
“You have to know...”
“I am nothing to you!”
The last two exclamations came out of them almost simultaneously and then the room had descended into a brittle sort of silence, the kind that could erupt at any moment into violence. Miles took a step towards Bass, who had tried to take a step back, only to be foiled by the wall behind him which softly buttressed him as he sank against it.
“You... are everything to me,” Miles finally whispered. He sank to his knees in front of Bass, who had been slumped against the wall, his legs sprawled out on the floor before him.
“Miles,” the President of the Monroe Republic finally whispered, his voice barely a scratchy whisper. “Don’t fuck with me like this. This... this is cruel.”
“Let me save you,” Miles shuffled closer, encouraged by the fact that Bass seemed to have neither desire nor ability to slither away.
“I’m far beyond saving.”
“No more than I, Bass.” He decided to risk putting his hand on the other man’s leg, and was encouraged by the fact that Bass didn’t pull away. “I was given a second chance to make things right. Let me save you. I can save you!”
“What do you care?” Bass seemed to come alive for a moment. “Seriously, Miles, what am I to you? Some weird charity project? Why are you warning me? Why are you trying to help me? Or do you just think it would be that much more fun to tear my heart out later if you win me over again with these words of yours?”
“If it’s deeds you need, instead of words, I will convince you another way!” Miles moved closer yet. “You said last time, you wanted me to come back.”
“You waltz in here, spouting this nonsense about how suddenly I’m everything to you instead of nothing, and you expect me to... what, Miles? Am I supposed to just fall all over your cock again?”
“Bass, I don’t know what you want!”
“I want... Everything. Nothing. To be allowed to live with you or to be allowed to die by your hand.”
“You will live!” Miles stated emphatically.
“Because, dammit! I love you!”
And with that, Miles had finally closed the stretch of distance between them and leaned in until his lips rested against Monroe’s lips. Sebastian’s eyes always seemed to become bluer when rimmed with the foreshadowing of tears, and so they looked that way to Miles then, until he had simply closed them and opened his lips instead.
He kissed Bass in such a way as if he wanted to completely obliterate everything that had passed between them in the past six years, in a way that would sear the parts of his brain that had held on to the words Miles had spoken in Philadelphia, so that new words, words spoken by Miles mere moments before would become imprinted in his mind instead. He kissed him like his life depended on it, because at that moment, Miles was pretty sure that it did.
“You fucking nutjob,” Bass finally said when the kiss had been broken, but he had been smiling as he said so and his eyes were open again, gracing Miles with a look of such tenderness he thought his heart might break again.
“Come with me, Bass. I love you. Please trust me that I can save you.” Miles had to repeat it, in case, well, there was no telling these days where either of their minds had been.
Bass reached up and ran his hand through Miles’ hair, gently at first, then more possessively, and pulled him back in for another kiss, to reassure himself that the first one had not been a fluke or a figment of his imagination.
“Where?” he finally asked.
“There’s a place I know. I just... I want to have you all to myself for a bit.”
“Let’s just take the horses and go. We’re in a cease-fire, right?”
“It would arouse suspicion if I left alone with you.”
“Fine, we’ll take Jeremy.”
Bass laughed. “I thought you wanted to have me all to yourself for a bit? How fickle you are.”
“Oh, now you’re just being difficult. Besides, you’re the one sleeping with him right now, not me.”
“Are you jealous?” Monroe’s eyes sparkled.
“What do you think?”
“I think we’re wasting time, is what I think.”
Miles remembered what he had told Rachel very well, which meant he still had almost an entire twenty-four hours at his disposal, as he led the three horses through a trail very well known to him. They were relatively close to the rebel camp, but he had no reason to expect to run into anyone at the location he had in mind. Bass would glance over at him occasionally, as if trying to read his mind. It bothered Miles to think that there was a more than zero percent chance he might be thinking that Miles is leading them into a trap. Jeremy, on the other hand, was the picture of composure and nonchalance.
Finally he spotted the old sign. It had been weather-beaten and neglected for years but you could still make out the words upon it: MOXIE FALLS.
“Where the hell are you taking us, Miles?”
“Some place... awesome,” was all Miles decided to share with them. Jeremy chuckled.
“This is true romance indeed, General Matheson. I was not expecting you to be quite so... literal... about the whole starting over, washing your sins away thing.” Jeremy laughed, clearly very pleased with himself for his observation.
“Just for being a smartass, Baker, you’re not allowed to come with us all the way to the waterfall.”
“How do I know you’re not going to drown him?” Jeremy asked, a deadpan expression on his face. “Wouldn’t be the first time you tried to kill him, would it? I wouldn’t be much of a bodyguard if I...”
“Shut up, Jeremy,” Bass interrupted him and put his hand on top of Jeremy’s as he sat in the saddle.
“Shutting up, Sir.” Jeremy still cast a dubious glance towards Miles.
“Just hang out here for a bit, you can join us later at the waterfall.” Bass looked over at Miles. “Right, Miles?”
“Yeah, sure.” Miles glanced over at Jeremy who still had both his swords tucked into his own saddle bags. “Yell if anyone’s coming,” he ordered Jeremy, almost as an afterthought.
“No problem. Yell if one of you is killing the other.” Jeremy dismounted and led his horse over to one of the trees to tether it.
Despite his better judgment, Miles found himself laughing, and with a wave of the hand in Jeremy’s direction he led the remaining horses towards the hidden waterfall, the sound of the water hitting rocks already audible to the men.
“It’s beautiful,” Bass said, beholding the ninety foot drop. The afternoon summer sun was beating down on him just enough to make him rue the day he decided that wool uniforms were a good idea. “My God, Miles, I had no idea this was here.”
“It’s not on the new maps,” Miles replied, his eyes also on the cascading water. He couldn’t wait to take his clothes off. And not just because of the summer heat. “And, bonus, Bass... this is the closest we’ll come to taking an actual shower in a long time. You’re welcome.”
Sebastian grinned at him, crows feet crinkling around his eyes as he beamed at Miles.
“Jeremy was right. You’re planning on rebaptizing us.”
“Not like... consciously,” Miles conceded. “I just wanted to bring you here. Actually since I found this place, it’s all I’ve thought about. Being here with you.”
“You thought about being with me?” Bass seemed like he was really far away for a moment.
Miles dismounted and walked over to Sebastian’s saddle, stretching out his hand, in a way that was almost formal and overly galant.
“There was never a day when I actually stopped thinking about being with you,” he replied, helping Bass off his horse, much to the other soldier’s amusement.
“I don’t want to fight anymore. Ever.” Bass reached up with both hands and wrapped his fingers around Miles’ neck, pulling him in for a lingering kiss.
“Mmmm... let’s... water?” Miles suggested, barely coherently.
They stripped off their clothes and left them in a co-mingled pile on one of the banks of what Miles informed Bass was the Moxie Stream. Bass laughed at the name again before finally jumping into water and swimming to the base of the waterfall, where the stream dropped from the height of ninety feet, while pummeling the rocks around them. Miles climbed over the rocks behind him, letting the water fall over his face and hair as if he really was taking his first shower in over fifteen years.
“Woo!” Miles shouted and laughed as if he was twelve years old again.
“What a rush,” Bass said, pulling Miles up against the rocks, so that only parts of the cascading wetness accosted them.
“I told you it was awesome.”
“Shut up and fuck me already.”
Miles really did not need to be asked twice. He pressed Bass against the rocks, his lips immediately latching onto the tender sinews of his neck, drawing moans of desire from his long-time lover’s lips. His skin felt and tasted just the same as Miles remembered it, that is to say, heavenly. He let his hands roam all over his best friend’s torso, sliding with ease over the wet grooves of his finely chiseled abdomen.
“God, Bass.... You’re so...” Miles didn’t need to finish, nor did he get the chance, since Bass was kissing him again, punishingly that time, his teeth mercilessly nibbling on Miles’ lips, his tongue invading Miles’ mouth as if he wanted to reassure himself that he still reigned supreme there. He did.
There were new scars, scars that Miles didn’t recognize and simultaneously may have been responsible for. He trailed his lips and tongue over them, lavishing attention upon every familiar curve of Sebastian’s body, while his hands began to desperately knead at his ass.
He needed no further encouragement, and he immediately ran his tongue along the underside of Sebastian’s straining cock, causing his lover’s eyes to roll into the back of his head. Miles took it all in, wondering at the ease with which he resumed this activity after all the years apart, revelling in the familiar taste and feel of Bass’ cock sliding in and out of his mouth.
“Fuck... Miles... I need you.”
“I’ll take care of you, baby,” Miles promised, taking the cock out of his mouth and letting his mouth travel back up Monroe’s slick abdomen, stopping to pay attention to his wet nipples as he made his way back up to the neck, biting to mark him - at last - after all this time as his own again. He knew what Bass wanted, because he wanted it too.
“Do it. Don’t worry about the lube.” It was as if Bass had read his mind.
“But...” Miles tried to protest weakly.
“If you don’t fuck me right now, I am going to kill you, I swear,” Bass threatened, and Miles definitely didn’t need to be asked a third time. He flipped the other man over so that his face was pressed against the slippery, wet rocks, and prayed that they don’t both just slip and crack their heads open on the rocks. That would have been embarrassing. “Don’t worry, I’ve had worse.” It wasn’t exactly what Miles was hoping to hear, but it was enough to make him spread Sebastian’s ass cheeks apart and breach him with his wet finger. Bass moaned encouragingly, so Miles did the best he could preparing him using his fingers and his own saliva, before finally pressing up against him, feeling his own cock begin to throb and leak with excitement as it rubbed along the crease of his lover’s perfect ass. At last, wrapping both arms around Bass, and burying his face in the crook of his neck, Miles slid home into the long-coveted, tight heat of the other man’s ass.
“Oh God, baby,” Miles muttered into Bass’ moist skin, “You have no idea how I missed this.” He slammed his hips forward, gently at first, then harder until they found a rhythm.
“Please don’t stop!” Bass begged, making Miles smile - as if he ever would. He held tightly to Bass’ slender hips as he pounded him against the rocks. For a moment it occurred to him that Jeremy was within ear shot, and possibly closer than he thought (for that appeared to be his stealthy habit), but then pushing that thought of out of his mind, Miles resumed the task at hand, of fucking Bass into the side of the cliff. He pulled Bass back by the hair, turning his face so that he could fuck his mouth with his tongue as he continued to pummel his ass with his cock. Bass moaned into his mouth and whispered filthy words of encouragement so intense that Miles knew he wasn’t going to last long. Allowing his other hand to wrap around Sebastian’s cock, Miles quickly stroked him to completion just as he himself had spent inside him with a guttural scream so loud that indeed it might have been misinterpreted as a death cry.
They both fell into the water and it took every remaining shred of control for Miles to make sure they both scrambled back to shore in one piece before collapsing next to their clothes in a puddle of post-coital bliss.
“Holy fuckballs, that was hot,” Bass announced, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath.
Miles pulled him closer and pressed his face against his wet curls. He murmured incoherently into Sebastian’s neck and smiled contently.
“Pleased with yourself, are you?” Bass smiled and, in his turn, wrapped his arms around Miles. Miles nodded. “Won’t ever leave me again?” Miles shook his head and murmured again. “Love me still?”
“I do.” Miles opened his eyes. “Always and always.”
“You’re spoiling me. I have a feeling you’re just being nice to me because you’re going to have your friends kill me.”
“How can you say that after what we just did?”
“You mean this fucking?”
“Bass...” Miles was becoming concerned, as doubt suddenly crept in to replace the afterglow. “Don’t... You have to trust me - otherwise.... Otherwise it’s all pointless.”
Bass leaned it and pressed his forehead against Miles’ own, his hand caressing the side of his face. There were still tiny drops of water hanging off his long eyelashes.
“One day at a time, Miles.”
“One day at a time,” Miles repeated, as if those words suddenly made the world whole for him, and pressed his lips to his best friend’s lips again. After so many years of bitter warfare, how could he ask for anything more than this, when this was already so much more than he deserved.